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Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 23 November, 2014

€5k to see the men’s 100m final next summer (champagne included)

Tickets are still available for some of the biggest events of next summer’s Olympic Games. They’re just not cheap, in the slightest.

Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt

THERE ARE STILL tickets on sale for the men’s 100-metre final at the London Olympics – contrary to what most people think.

The opening and closing ceremonies too. Even beach volleyball (but not too many). As with all things in life, though, there is a catch… it will cost you.

They are part of hospitality packages sold by a company contracted by London Olympic authorities to sell the most desirable events. Combined with vintage champagne, fine wines, canapes and multi-course dinners, the deluxe deals offer companies a chance to entertain their most favored clients.

This is for people who don’t mind spending £4,500 pounds (€5,200) per person to attend a ten-second event if it could mean closing a deal worth a few million. Not what one might call the nosebleed seats.

“You may not remember who you were with when Chelsea played West Brom,” Alan Gilpin, chief operating officer of Prestige Ticketing Ltd., said. “But you will remember who you were with when Usain Bolt runs.”

The Prestige concept is new in an Olympic context. Among American sporting teams, NFL franchises have for years made their best seats available to top-paying season ticket holders and combined them with food, wine and extras. But up until now, the usual way to get such treatment at the Olympics was being an executive at McDonald’s, Coca-Cola or other Olympic sponsors.

Big corporations are still willing to pay millions to attach their name to the games, piggybacking on the branding of an event devoted to healthy competition and warm, fuzzy stories of overcoming adversity. Prestige, however, gives high-rollers and smaller business executives a fighting chance to be oh-so-close as well.

Still, it’s a tricky issue for London’s organisers, who have struggled this year over the subject of tickets and access to them. They set up a complicated lottery system in which people blindly registered for tickets and handed over credit card details to pay for them before they even knew what – if any – tickets were getting.

“It’s like going to a supermarket and putting some money down at the checkout in hopes of getting the shopping you want,” Matthew Bath, technology editor of the consumer group Which?, said.

Two-thirds of ticket seekers failed to earn any in a first round that ended in April — with 22 million requests in the first round for the 6.6 million tickets available. A second round was blighted by computer problems. Plans for further ticket sales at the end of December and again next year have failed to stem public grumbling.

Those dashed expectations are worrisome in a time of economic austerity, as critics have charged that millions were spent to build stadiums and otherwise finance the games — only for the public to be shortchanged when it comes to actually seeing them, complaints exacerbated by reports of huge ticket allocations for sponsors.

Prestige says its allocation comprises about one percent of the overall London Olympic tickets and stresses that 70 percent of its packages sell for less than £1,000 (€1,150) a person. Their clients include broadcasters, national Olympic committees and media companies and some 20 percent of their sales have gone to individuals, with packages offered to a minimum of four.

- Danica Kirka

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